Research objectives and content
Due to strong exploitation pressures and habitat encroachment over the course of several centuries, green turtle populations of the Mediterranean have declined through most of their former range and are now in danger of extinction. Conservation efforts are constrained by insufficient knowledge, particularly about the stages of the life cycle spent at sea. Mating behaviour, as well as migration between breeding and feeding grounds in the eastern Mediterranean have not been studied. Uncertainty on the origin of individuals, which, in migrating, do not respect national boundaries, and on their genetic value in relation to their gene pool of origin, hinders the effectiveness of conservation initiatives. Genetic studies can be particularly appropriate tools to investigate complex population characteristics such as mating behaviour and migration patterns. Nuclear, mitochondrial DNA analyses have been used together to establish the structure of populations and gene flow occurring between them. Mitochondrial DNA, being maternal inherited, can distinguish large-scale subdivisions between rookeries, while nuclear DNA can be used to determine male contributions to genetic diversity and gene flow within and among populations. The proposed project will also investigate multi-pleclutch paternity, male philopatry and hatchling sexing which are highly polymorphic loci, with as many as 25 different alleles in green turtles. The proposed project will involve the identification and tagging of nesting females, incidentally captured males and emergent hatchlings, collection of tissue samples and laboratory mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA analysis. It will last a total of three years, including data analysis and write-up, and will be carried out in fulfilment of doctoral degree requirements. A preliminary survey has already investigated the study area and research potential during July-September 1997.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
This Doctoral dissertation project will provide training in a wide range of molecular techniques and analyses, and will explore innovative methods to apply genetic techniques to the management of an endangered species. Genetic techniques are becoming increasingly valuable in conservation biology and their continued advances and improvements will benefit the entire discipline. In addition, sophisticated state-of-the-art technology will be used and training in its usage and operation provided.
Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)
The project will apply and develop molecular techniques which have important application in the biotechnology industry. They are, for instance, useful in genome mapping and analysis of economically important traits. The general molecular biological techniques and technologies are used in a wide variety of applications, from the design of human drugs to transgenic crop production.